Philadelphia – Joel Embed spent the week restless. His sunken thumb needs surgery.
MVP form? Not yet. But Embed put on his black mask and injected the 76ers – and a Scottish fanbase – with aspirations for a revived championship.
Embed inspired 76 players to recover from a facial injury, with Danny Green and Tyres Maxi scoring 21 points each, and Philadelphia beating the Miami Heat 99-79 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Friday night.
“We have a good chance of winning it all,” Embed said. “We want to stay healthy.”
Heat leads the series 2-1. Sunday’s game is 4 in Philadelphia.
Wearing a hammer-tested mask, Embed received 18 points and 11 rebounds, after missing the first two games of the series with a right orbital fracture and a mild injury in the final round. Embed was not a formidable force throughout the season and was exhausted during the game. Green, Maxi and James Harden crushed the heat rally with big buckets, the embed did not have to carry the sixes.
But when he returned, 76 people were happy.
Coach Doc Reverse said, “Any plan you can take Joel as part of the plan is better.
Reverse also failed to come up with a plan that included a game that helped him drop the game: Maxi did a full-court sprint to save basketball with an over-the-shoulder toss. 76 players held the ball and Embed buried a slippery bucket and smashed a free throw for an 86-74 lead.
The embed was good. The greens were good. Green Breed made 63 3-pointers out of 7 from three quarters, which shattered Miami’s run and extended the lead to 54-50 and 57-51. Missed 93 out of 10 in Green Game 2.
Tyler Herrero made two critical 3s of his own in the final minute and pulled the heat to 68-65 to close the third. He scored 14 runs and added Jimmy Butler as the lone hit in the double digits. Butler led the heat with 33 points.
“Whether you add Joe to any team, at home or away, in a sports, scouting report, that changes drastically,” Butler said. “It simply came to our notice then.
Maxi’s last 3-pointer made it 92-77 and, all of a sudden, the six got a new lease of life in the series.
76 players have never won a playoff series in 19 attempts after losing the first two games.
The return type of NBA scoring champ helps with those difficulties.
“Even if it’s not normal, it helps us a lot,” Green said.
Embed said he was cleared the day before and Philly was buzzing with the hope that he could play. When he came out to warm up wearing a mask, Sixer fans roared and shouted “MVP! MVP! “The main chant in the arena.
When Sixers public speaking announcer Matt Cord declared “no injuries” on the pregame report, Sixers fans were shocked. Embed heard the loudest sound during the lineup introduction, and his presence made the Sixers excited. It was hard to say that Embed had lost so much time.
“I knew his presence would have an effect,” Reverse said. “I was positive about it.”
He was on only 5 of 12 floors in 36 minutes. Embed is still playing with a right thumb ligament injury that requires off-season surgery.
“It’s about doing everything possible to protect as much as possible,” Embed said.
Embed – who led the 76ers with 30.6 points and 11.7 rebounds this season – only impressed Game 3 with his presence. Miami All-Star Center Bam Adebayo, who scored 24 points in Game 1 and 23 points in Game 2, scored just five points in the first half.
Embed said, “I was really (angry) to see another big man play well against my team.
Embed smiled after the game on social media. He tweeted a picture of “The Wire” character Stringer Bell with a quote from the scene in the show: “I want you to tell us we’re backing up.”
The big guy is really the backup – and so are the 76ers.
“That’s what you expect,” said Heat coach Eric Spoelstra. “He’s an MVP-caliber player.”